Pentagon Memorial: 9/11 without Heroism

9/11 Pentagon Memorial. Photo: Valerio Santarelli

Stone, when used in memorials, is usually thick and massive because it stands for heroism and is meant to withstand the wear and tear of time. But two young landscape architects chose a different message for their granite: almost delicate it is dispersed over the American Airline 77 memorial, which crashed into the US-Military-Headquarters at the hand of terrorists.

Crunch gravel ground cover, a granite mix of Atlantic Black and yellowish St. Cecilia Gold, was used as a base. Benches seemingly swing out, their surfaces encased in yellow granite. These are 1 inch-thick (2.54 cm) and 5 m long slabs cut with the help of a CNC machine. The light stone was chosen because it does not absorb the heating rays of the sun to the same extent as the black stone.

184 benches were installed in total: 59 for the victims in the plane and 125 for those who died in the building. The seats could be interpreted as tracks for take off and landing. They run in two directions: toward and away from the building depending on whether the victims were in the building or in the plane at the time of the crash. Small pools of water under each bench are lit at night and can be filled or drained by means of a central pumping system.

The layout of the benches is interesting as well: the configuration is unique for each of the victims’ birth years. The lines run parallel to the others and toward the building. At the centre is the „Zero-Line“: made of limestone from the ruins and carrying the exact time of the crash. All the lines merge in a low wall surrounding the complex made of different types of granite in layers.

The award-winning concept was picked from 1200 entries from 50 countries and developed in cooperation with the families of the victims under utmost consideration for their feelings, according to the magazine landscape architecture (1/2009). „No flames, no planes, no flags, no soldiers, no angels, no naked ladies“ was the projection of a participating US-Army Veteran.

The monument cost 22 million $ – in part because the ground had to be excavated and removed to a depth of 2 m. The water and lighting were quite costly as well. The sum was collected entirely from private donations partly collected by the victims’ families.

The author writes that the memorial is a long way away from the Underground station and from the parking lot. Then he describes his impression: „You hear the crunch of your steps on the cinnamon gravel, the buzz of the automobile traffic on nearby roads, the soft water song all around, and the roar of jetliners not high above.“

KBAS, Keith Kaseman and Julie Beckman

Pentagon Memorial

(September 2009)